Why I Read Romance Novels

Why I Read Romance Novelsby guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels

I started reading romance novels in college at my mother’s insistence (long-ish story). As a student of women’s literature, she declared that I couldn’t legitimately receive such a degree without reading the most popular and profitable books by women, for women, about women. Of all time. Ever. But I was a literature snob and scoffed at her suggestion. Like many a romance heroine, I resisted before finally surrendering to the pleasure to be found in those colorful mass-market paperbacks where the rogues are dashing, the heroines are daring, and true love always triumphs.

These days, most of my time is spent writing romance novels, day after day, word after word, first kiss after first kiss. There are tremendous perks to this job—working from home, not having to wear pants, being the boss lady of my own fictional worlds where all the (paper) people do whatever I tell them to. In the process of creating these books, I can almost forget why I—and millions of other people—read romance novels.

But then, it was one of those days: grey skies, frigid temperatures, and some heartbreaking news. I cried, I wrote in my diary, I talked to a friend—I did all those things you’re supposed to do. But the only thing that lessened the ache was a romance novel—a story written to be utterly absorbing, and that I knew with 100,000 percent certainty would end happily. I was lucky in that I happened to be deeply immersed in an excellent series of historical romances. For a few hours, I was so completely focused on the heroine’s dangerous crime solving and sexy romantic entanglements that I forgot about the news that had me crying in the middle of West Elm. And I was so damn grateful for the story that swept me away when I needed it most.

According to a survey of romance readers I conducted, entertainment, relaxation, and escape are the reasons most often cited for reading romance novels. They’re our vacation reads, a way to pass the time in line at the post office, or a treat at the end of a hard day. Sometimes, they are even a lifesaver.

Critics say romance novels are fluffy, escapist literature—as if that’s a bad thing. As if we should sit down, have a stiff drink, and dwell on the depressing. But I say romance novels are like a cold medicine that lets you get a good night’s sleep or a pain reliever that takes the edge off your headache. They’re the little bit of help and hope we need to carry on.

Romance readers know our real-life problems are still there when the story is over. But in those few hundred pages, we’ve not only had a rest, but we’ve had the vicarious experience of confronting challenges and triumphing, too. When the story is over, we can return to our lives a little bit stronger and a hell of a lot more hopeful that everything will be fine.

Dangerous Books For Girls bigThis week on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen, my romance-writing friends and I are taking over to share personal stories about how these books have transformed our lives. They’re best known for the naughty bits, but romance novels have so much to teach and inspire us about love, self-acceptance, hope, and HAPPINESS…all ideas I examine in my new book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained, which looks at the secret history of why these books have been scorned and why they’ve also been the salvation for millions of women readers through the centuries.

 

MayaRodalephotoMaya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the best-selling and award-winning author of smart and sassy romances. Her latest book is Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Follow her on Twitter @mayarodale.

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9 Responses to Why I Read Romance Novels

  1. Alice Green May 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Thank you Maya, for telling it like it is! I used to be one of those people who wouldn’t pick up a romance novel, because I thought they would be boring and childish and mostly because I thought all the women would be protrayed as weak, silly, and used by the strong, protective, smart ‘men’. But one day, my library was low on the ‘good’ books I escaped into and out of the fear of not having a book to read (I read all the time), I picked up a romance novel, mainly because the author was one of my favorite murder mystery writers. Well, I loved it and was totally wrong about romance novels. The women were strong and independent and smart! The men were not users or women haters but mostly were seen as equals in the struggle to finally get both main characters to fall in love. It was relaxing, and a bit of escape from the trials of daily life. If a writer is really good at her vocation, any book she writes will be worth the cost and the time spent on it!! And I thank all women writers for all the pleasure you give me whether it’s romance or murder mystery, you make my life so much better!!

  2. Maya Rodale May 19, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    Hi Alice! I think you are not alone in your pre-romance-reading perceptions of the genre and I’m so happy the stars aligned for you to discover how wonderful they are! We all deserve a little happiness and escape to help us recharge. And on behalf of all the writers, many thanks to you and all the readers who make it possible to have this crazy wonderful job of making up happiness! 🙂

  3. Donna in Delaware May 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Like Alice, I wouldn’t dare pick up a romance novel. I would always pass them by in a library, book store, five and dime , anywhere. I was never interested in them, but there was a romance novel that I read many moons ago. A few months back, for some strange reason I wanted to read it again. I think it was because of all the English series I’ve been watching of late on PBS. Anyway, I can’t remember for the life of me, the name of the book, but I know that I kept it because it was a lovely read.

    Granted, I don’t usually read romance novels, but if I find one that is engaging, I’ll read it. This one was engaging. The scenery, tenderness, passion, class struggles, heartbreak, etc., touched me in ways I found that I couldn’t put the book down. I found myself routing for the couple who’s lives (by class) was so very different, yet their heart knew no such differences. I would get angry, cry a bit, try to make things happen while reading that wouldn’t and couldn’t happen, because “I” wanted it. I got so wrapped up in these fictional characters lives, that when I finished the book, and all ended well, I was smiling, exhausted and happy!

    I have learned that because it is fiction, it really is a story of many of us, overcoming extreme odds sometimes, in life for love. To be loved, give love, get love and to be “in love,” is one of the greatest things life has to offer. Keep on writing!

  4. Stella Siobhan May 19, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    Maya, Thank you for expressing what so many of us romance writers struggle to say when our work is placed under considerable scrutiny. I will share this with others.

  5. Maya Rodale May 19, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Thank you Donna in Delaware! Thank you Stella!

  6. Alice Green May 19, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Maya, I just love that you said “making up happiness”! That is what books do for all of us and for those of us who didn’t have a happy childhood, getting to read to help us make up happiness is such a blessing, such a treat, such a happy adulthood!! Now everytime I read a book that just makes me smile and feel at peace, I will remember that you and others are helping me by your ability to make up happiness for me, not just for today but for as long as I’m able to read. Thanks again!

  7. Rachel Daven Skinner May 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

    You’re so right, Maya. Romance books really can get you through the darkest days. I few years ago I was grieving intensely, and reading romance books was about the only way my heart could escape that pain for a little while. It wasn’t my husband’s fault, or friends or family–they weren’t lacking. There just really is nothing like the utter escapism of reading and becoming someone else for a little while.

    Thank you for publishing the stats of your survey. I’m hoping they’ll prompt some great discussions. I look forward to reading Dangerous Books for Girls.

  8. Maya Rodale May 21, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Rachel, you bring up such a great point–that friends and family aren’t lacking but that sometimes the escape a romance provides is “just the thing.” And thanks okay! And Alice–you also bring up such a great point–that sometimes our lives aren’t 100% happy 100% of the time and that a romance is an easy way to find some.

    As I always write when signing books…Happy reading! 🙂

  9. cecelia dowdy May 24, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

    Hmm. My dairy farm romance just might be your cup of tea! I enjoyed your blog post!

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